Trans­port & Logis­tics — 2012 Mid-Year Round-Up and Outlook

In Brief

Our Trans­port & Logis­tics Team’s round-up high­lights devel­op­ments in trans­port reg­u­la­tion that affect every­one, includ­ing the pro­posed imple­men­ta­tion of uni­form chain of respon­si­bil­i­ty’ laws nation­al­ly and the con­tro­ver­sial new safe rates’ legislation.

We are half way through 2012 and it remains a busy agen­da for trans­port and logis­tics reg­u­la­tors and enforcers, with devel­op­ments impact­ing both providers and users of trans­port and logis­tics ser­vices.

Recent inci­dents and inves­ti­ga­tions: In the last few months, there have been some high pro­file inves­ti­ga­tions into, and police blitzes tar­get­ing, heavy vehi­cle trans­port operators:

  • whose dri­vers have been sus­pect­ed of using illic­it drugs;
  • whose vehi­cle speed lim­iters have been found to have been tam­pered with; or
  • whose vehi­cles have been detect­ed speed­ing or unsafe­ly loaded or who are not com­ply­ing with dri­ver fatigue man­age­ment regulations.

How this affects you — your role in the trans­port chain of respon­si­bil­i­ty’: A recent protest by truck dri­vers in Syd­ney brings into focus how road trans­port laws affect not only dri­vers and oper­a­tors, but any­one whose sup­ply chain involves the trans­porta­tion of goods using heavy vehicles.

The point the truck dri­vers were mak­ing was that in order to meet the deliv­ery demands of their cus­tomers, they claimed they had no choice but to take risks — breach­ing speed lim­its or dri­ving hours restric­tions or load­ing their vehi­cles in a way that may be unsafe. The truck dri­vers are high­light­ing the fact that every­one in the trans­port chain needs to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for the dri­vers’ com­pli­ance with safe­ty laws.

Cur­rent state of play: Hence the devel­op­ment of chain of respon­si­bil­i­ty’ laws over the last few years which make all par­tic­i­pants in the trans­port chain liable for rel­e­vant breach­es of road laws — from con­signors, pack­ers and load­ers through to con­signees, with lia­bil­i­ty extend­ing to direc­tors and man­agers of organ­i­sa­tions in the chain as well.

Cur­rent­ly, these laws vary from State to State and Ter­ri­to­ry to Ter­ri­to­ry, which makes it dif­fi­cult for organ­i­sa­tions with nation­al oper­a­tion or reach. How­ev­er, moves are afoot to put in place uni­form chain of respon­si­bil­i­ty laws nation­al­ly with respect to heavy vehi­cles by the begin­ning of next year. We will keep you post­ed on progress.

Safe rates’: In addi­tion, the con­tro­ver­sial Road Safe­ty Remu­ner­a­tion Act 2012 was assent­ed to in April 2012 and com­menced on 1 July 2012.

The Act is intend­ed to pro­mote safe­ty and fair­ness’ in the road trans­port indus­try by reg­u­lat­ing remu­ner­a­tion relat­ed incen­tives’ and oth­er fac­tors that con­tribute to unsafe work prac­tices, includ­ing by pro­mot­ing rea­son­able stan­dards along the road trans­port indus­try sup­ply chain.

The Act estab­lish­es a new Safe­ty Remu­ner­a­tion Tri­bunal which is empow­ered to make safe­ty remu­ner­a­tion orders’ (of its own voli­tion in accor­dance with its own annu­al work pro­gram, and on appli­ca­tion by inter­est­ed per­sons), to approve road trans­port col­lec­tive agree­ments, to deal with cer­tain dis­putes involv­ing road trans­port and to con­duct research into remu­ner­a­tion relat­ed mat­ters that may affect safe­ty in the road trans­port industry.

The Act has been wide­ly crit­i­cised, var­i­ous­ly for cre­at­ing an addi­tion­al lay­er of reg­u­la­tion and com­pli­ance which goes against the tide of stream­lin­ing and sim­pli­fy­ing trans­port reg­u­la­tion and because of a lack of empir­i­cal evi­dence of the link between dri­ver remu­ner­a­tion and road safe­ty.

Bud­get 2012: The fact that freight trans­port and logis­tics are front of mind for the fed­er­al and NSW gov­ern­ments was clear from recent bud­get mea­sures. Apart from the pro­pos­al to devel­op a new mul­ti-modal, mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar freight ter­mi­nal at Moore­bank in Syd­ney, allo­ca­tion was made in the fed­er­al bud­get for the estab­lish­ment of nation­al reg­u­la­tors for heavy vehi­cle, rail and mar­itime safe­ty, whilst the NSW bud­get pro­vid­ed for increased invest­ment in key freight routes and road infra­struc­ture main­te­nance.

Look­ing ahead: All of these recent devel­op­ments high­light the time­li­ness of the imple­men­ta­tion of nation­al heavy vehi­cle laws, sched­uled to com­mence in Jan­u­ary 2013. There are also par­al­lel devel­op­ments towards nation­al reg­u­la­tion of rail and mar­itime safe­ty. The imple­men­ta­tion of uni­form reg­u­la­tion across the var­i­ous trans­port modes also forms part of the broad­er har­mon­i­sa­tion of work­place health and safe­ty laws across Australia.

Our trans­port & logis­tics team will keep you informed of key devel­op­ments as they hap­pen. In the mean­time, don’t hes­i­tate to con­tact us with any questions.